Philip Hollobone’s arguments for a France-style burka ban make little sense – “it’s part of British culture to see people’s faces and say ‘Good morning’”? Oh really? Has he been to any British cities lately? Anyway, by that logic we’d have to ban low hats and high scarves in bad weather. But France generally gets it wrong. From the British perspective the only thing that matters is whether all the women who wear burkas are being forced to wear them against their will. If some but not all are being forced, then the possible ban available would be on the forcing of burka-wearing. And by all means, feminist or moderate pressure groups can feel free to encourage Muslim women not to wear it. But if at least some women are choosing to wear the burka, then that’s the end of the ban idea.
The thing was neatly summed up by a correspondent to a BBC Radio 2 programme yesterday morning. “When I’ve been to Arab countries,” she wrote, “I have had to cover my head and body. I strongly feel that when they come to this country they should obey our rules.” Her error, and the nub of it being, of course, that we don’t have rules like that.